The new Amazon Echo (2020) is here, and it sports an unusual spherical design that set them apart from most smart speakers you can buy in 2020.
The fourth-generation Amazon Echo was announced at the Amazon event 2020, alongside the new Echo Dot, Echo Dot with Clock, and Echo Dot Kids Edition, as well as Amazon Luna, the company's first games streaming service.
According to Amazon, the new Echo "combines the best of Echo and Echo Plus into a single device at the same affordable Echo price", with improved audio, a built-in smart home hub, and a new AZ1 neural edge processor (though enhancements to the latter are only coming to the US to start with).
It's set to launch on October 22, so you'll have to wait a little longer to get your hands on the fourth-gen Alexa speaker. In the meantime, here's everything you need to know about the latest Amazon Echo.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The latest Amazon Echo smart speaker.
- When will it be released? Thursday, October 22, 2020.
- How much will it cost? $99.99 / £89.99 / AU$149.
Amazon Echo (2020) release date
The Amazon Echo (2020) will be released on October 22, though you can preorder the fourth-gen smart speaker now.
That release date falls after Amazon Prime Day, which falls on October 13–14. So, while we probably won't see any discounts on the company's latest Alexa speaker, older Echo speakers are almost certain to see some hefty discounts during the massive sales event.
Amazon Echo (2020) price
At $99.99 / £89.99 / AU$149, the new Amazon Echo is the same price as the previous Echo was when it launched in 2019.
As the new speaker is said to be a combination of the 2019 Echo and the pricier Echo Plus, it's good to see that Amazon hasn't bumped up the price of its flagship smart speaker.
While this is fairly inexpensive for a smart speaker, there is a cheaper option if you're on a budget – the new Echo Dot (2020) will set you back $49.99 / £49.99 / AU$79, though its smaller build means it probably won't stack up to its bigger sibling in terms of audio quality.
What about Amazon Prime Day 2020?
Amazon Prime Day is coming up soon on October 13-14. The massive sales event will be a great place to find discounts on Amazon Echo speakers, as well as lots of other tech – though the latest Echo speakers probably wont be discounted, unless Amazon slashes the preorder price. Not ready to commit? Black Friday 2020 follows soon after on November 27, giving you another chance to save big on your next tech purchase.
Amazon Echo Dot (2020) design
The new Amazon Echo looks dramatically different to previous Echo speakers, with a spherical design that makes it look more like a soccer ball than a smart speaker.
There are echoes (see what we did there?) of previous Echo speakers in the design of Amazon's latest smart speaker. Like its predecessors, the new Amazon Echo features a wraparound fabric grille with a plastic base, and comes in three colors: Charcoal (dark gray), Glacier (white), and Twilight Blue (blueish-gray).
The blue Alexa light ring now encircles the base of the speaker, lighting up when you interact with the voice assistant.
At the back of the Amazon Echo 2020, you'll find a power port, and a 3.5mm AUX line in / out – which means you can hook it up to a more powerful speaker system if you want to boost the Echo's audio output.
On the top of the new Echo – which measures 133mm high – there's an Action button, volume up and down buttons, and a button to turn the microphone off, in case you're worried about Alexa listening in on your private conversations.
Amazon Echo (2020) features
Amazon's Echo speakers come with the brand's voice assistant Alexa built-in – and that means you can ask Alexa to play music from a range of music streaming services, answer questions, make calls to other Echo speakers and mobile phones, and tell you the news, sports scores, weather and more.
You can also use the new smart speaker to 'drop in' on other Echo speakers on your home; so, if you want let everyone in your home know that dinner is ready, you can ask Alexa on the Echo speaker in your kitchen to make an announcement to the Echo speakers in your living room.
The new speaker works with Zigbee-compatible smart home devices, and supports Amazon Sidewalk Bridge technology – allowing it to double up as a smart home hub.
Amazon Sidewalk compatibility is particularly useful in homes that suffer from Bluetooth or Wi-Fi 'blank spots', thanks to its reliance on the 900 MHz spectrum to allow your smart home devices to communicate with one another.
So, as with previous Echo models, you can ask your new Echo's built-in voice assistant to turn off your smart lights, turn on your smart security camera, and even lock your front door – working with a wider range of devices that ever before.
The new Echo should be better at responding to your queries thanks to a AZ1 Neural edge processor that Amazon says provides "2x faster voice processing".
According to Amazon, benefits from the AZ1 processors, including a more natural-sounding, conversational Alexa, are only coming to the US first, with a global rollout to be confirmed.
Amazon Echo (2020) audio quality
According to Amazon, the 2020 Echo can automatically adapt to the acoustics of your room, and has a soundstage inspired by the audiophile-friendly Echo Studio.
While we're not expecting audio quality on par with the best smart speakers of 2020, it does sound as though Amazon has made some big improvements to the audio output of its flagship speaker.
The company says that it sounds "significantly better" than the previous Echo, thanks to a 3-inch neodymium woofer, dual-firing tweeters, and "Dolby processing that delivers stereo sound with clear highs, dynamic-mids, and deep bass".
Without having two separate speakers, it's unclear how convincing this stereo sound will be, but Eric Saarnio (Vice President Amazon Devices EU), told us that the spherical design does offer a "sound advantage", with "crisp highs, balanced mids, and a nice bass tone".
As with Echo Studio, the new Echo automatically senses the acoustics of your space and fine-tunes audio playback – just ask to listen to your favorite music, and the "rich, detailed sound" will automatically adapt to your room.
There's no Dolby Atmos object-based sound on offer here, but as you're unlikely to use the Echo as a replacement for your TV's built-in speakers, this isn't an oversight.
If you don't want to go through Alexa to stream music, you can also connect your phone to the new Echo via Bluetooth for fast, no-fuss, music playback from any streaming service.